Apologetics Bible Christianity Debates the Church

Should we all join the Roman Catholic Church? – Debate with Peter D Williams

Premier Unbelievable are releasing what they call ‘Classic Replays’.  This was a debate I did with Peter D Williams.  It was a good-natured conversation.  Peter was excellent.  I think I lost the debate – but I also gained.  It made me go back and look at things again.   And to read great Catholic writers like Aquinas, Augustine, Anselm, Chesterton, Peter Kreeft etc…

It was funny to be criticised by some Catholics for being Protestant, and by some Protestants for being too friendly to Catholics – I felt like Pascal!    I’m afraid – despite Peter’s excellence, I am more convinced than ever that the Pope is not the head (or even the Prime Minister!) of the Church,  that Scripture is our only ultimate authority for doctrine, and the salvation is by faith alone.   I am also convinced that the Pope is not the anti-Christ and that the Roman Catholic Church is a Christian church – despite the areas where it is doctrinally wrong!  I am quite happy to work in areas of co-belligerence (where we are agreed) and to seek to bring our erring brothers and sisters back into the true fold!

There is one area where Peter’s argument has been noticeably weaker in the past few years.  He referred to the consistency of Roman Catholic doctrine – especially on social issues – the current Pope is certainly stretching that to the limits!

“Some of the key differences between Catholic and Protestant doctrine were explored in a friendly dialogue in this show from the archives. Roman Catholic Peter D Williams and Protestant pastor David Robertson debated The Pope, Sola Scriptura and justification by faith.”

Confessions of a Free Church Minister



  1. Well Mr. Williams , please tell me what you think .

    Is it true that censorship is the best tool for people with the worst arguments ?

  2. Priests and nuns shouldn’t have make a once for all vow, not to marry.
    Just a simple thumbs up or simple sign every day meaning (I won’t marry today.)
    Ex C of E vicars can stay married post Roman Catholic induction, and if they’re allow so should nuns and priests be allowed to marry (even each other) when God brings the right person along.

    1. Nuns (and monks and friars too) all join communities where being single is part of the fabric. We have all of these in the Church of England too, so it’s not purely a Roman Catholic thing. (I don’t disagree with what you said about priests who are not members of monastic orders.)

  3. David, with respect, to call the RC Church Christian is stretching the meaning of the word to breaking point. If the term Christian embraces those who deny justification by faith ALONE, who believe in a sinless Mary and pray to her and others they call saints and believe in purgatory…and the list goes on, then the term is meaningless

  4. I am truly taken back by your description of the Catholic Church as Christian. I would accept that despite the fundamental doctrinal errors and practices of the RC Church there are Christians within the RC Church. However, having been privileged to see many converted during over 50 years of connection with Brazil, I am still to meet one who speaks of understanding or hearing the gospel preached or Christ being honoured as the only Way, Truth and Light.

    1. Yet I have met many Christians who heard in the Catholic church about Christ being the only Way, Truth and Light….go figure! You could also ask Calvin, Luther etc about the Roman Catholic Church being Christian – they certainly accepted its baptism as Christian….

      1. Thank you for your reply.
        I am grateful to all those who are considered “greats” but no matter how eminent a person may be our position must be firmly anchored in scripture.
        The Mass, for example, is such an affront to the finished work of Christ that, surely, it undermines any claim to be truly Christian.

  5. David, God can and does speak his truth through all sorts of channels – such as a demon possessed girl in Philippi – but that doesn’t necessarily make the channel sanctified! We don’t – or shouldn’t – evaluate such important issues by the opinions of others, no matter how great – but by the teaching of Scripture. After all, Luther was wrong on a number of matters, including the Jews and Communion. In your original post you said, “the Roman Catholic Church is a Christian church – despite the areas where it is doctrinally wrong”. Therein lies the inbuilt contradiction since the areas where it is doctrinally wrong are not secondary matters that truly regenerate believers graciously differ over, but the very foundations of saving truth. I find it desperately concerning to read and hear how people make so little of the fundamental differences between the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church on one hand and biblical truth on the other. The difference is night and day.

  6. For Scripture alone to be valid, at least 2 things are necessary. Firstly, there must be something in the Scriptures which tell us which books constitute the Scriptures. Secondly there must be a statement in the Scriptures which state sola scriptura. Neither conditions are met. It is also interesting that none of the Apostles tell their disciples that once they are all dead, they have to rely on the Bible alone. Like many other Protestant beliefs (eg. Primary and Secondary doctrines) sola scriptura was invented out of necessity. The Church did not agree with Luther’s doctrinal innovations so he rejected the authority of the Church. That left him having to claim that all that mattered was his interpretation of the Bible.

    1. Your first premise is not logically necessary. Jesus for example spoke of Scripture without telling us what books constituted it. Your 2nd point defeats itself – none of the Apostles told their disciples that once they were all dead they needed to follow an infallible pope in Rome! And Luther did not innovate – he protested against the doctrinal innovations of the RC church (including purgatory, indulgences etc). I would rather trust the Bible than the Papal Church!

  7. If we are to be guided by “the Bible alone”, it is absolutely essential that we know the contents of the Bible. I fail to see how Jesus speaking of Scripture has got anything to do with that.
    My second point, actually, was that nowhere in the Bible (as we accept it) does it say that we must be guided by the Bible alone.
    As to the Bible saying nothing about the disciples being guided by an infallible pope, I have to disagree. See Matt 16: 18-19.
    This is not the place to go into a detailed examination of the doctrine of sola scriptura. Instead, I would refer readers to a series of articles by Ken Hensley (a former Baptist minister). His articles show that sola scriptura is neither scriptural nor historical. Each article links (at the end) to the next article. The first article can be read at:
    You can also watch Ken Hensley discuss the issue with Matt Swain (Wesleyan Methodist Holiness background) in a series of YouTube videos:
    On the Journey With Matt and Ken, starting with Episode 3: Is Sola Scriptura Scriptural? Part I
    The videos examine whether sola scriptura is scriptural, historical, workable and logical. There are 11 episodes in total (3 to 13).
    On the question of knowing which books are in the Bible, Mark Shea (a former Evangelical) has written a book, “On What Authority” in which he examines all the claims (such as ‘the books of the Bible are self-attesting’) that we can determine the contents of the Bible by ourselves. It was the realisation that none of these claims are reliable that led him into the Catholic Church.

    1. John the apostle was emphatic that the apostles were the source of authority. . They were custodians of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

  8. “Salvation through works” is an all-too-common caricature of Catholic teaching, which clearly insists that we are saved by the grace of God. Salvation is a free gift.
    At the same time, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God created man in his image by conferring on him…the power to know him and love him.” And so we are called to repent of sin, trust in Christ, take up our cross and follow him in the obedience of faith.
    And why isn’t this “works salvation”? Because the ability to persevere in faithful obedience is itself the result of God’s grace working in us. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you . . . and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26,27).

    Also see: On the Journey with Matt and Ken – Episode 21: A Damning System of Works Righteousness, Part V
    Gal 5: 6
    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. (RSVCE)
    Gal 6: 15
    For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (RSVCE)
    1 Cor 7:19
    For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. (RSVCE)

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